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RELS-233

Christianity: A Historical Introduction


Spring 2010 Instructor: Nathan Rein
MWF 11-12 Office hours: M 1:30-3pm, Tue 10 am-12 noon, and by appt.
Olin 108 Olin 211, x. 2571, nrein at ursinus dot edu

First paper assignment: The meaning of the Gospel of Mark

Write a reflective essay on the meaning of Mark's Gospel. This is an intentionally open-
ended assignment, since a large part of my goal in asking you to do it is to find out what you
think about, and what you have learned from, this rather enigmatic text. Your assignment is
to choose one of the following questions and write a 1500-word (or longer) essay giving
your response:
• As readers of Mark's Gospel (without referring to any other Christian texts), are we
supposed to understand what Jesus' original proclamation of the gospel message
means? (In the words of Mark 1.14: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God
has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.") Or is it supposed to remain a
mystery?
• What is the relationship between Jesus' teachings and his miracles? (Is one more
important than the other? Does one "complete" the other? Or is there another way
to see their connection?)
• What is the basic message of Mark? (Note: I don't mean the basic message of Jesus,
though, obviously, that's closely related. Rather, I mean: what does Mark want us to
take away from a reading of this text?)
• What did you learn from -- or how did you react to -- this text?
• Read Nick Cave's short, personal essay on his first encounter with Mark (see below).
Do you agree with Cave's interpretation, or not?
• Or -- supply your own question. (Check with me before you begin writing, if you do.)
It is OK, indeed it is encouraged, for this paper to be fairly reflective and personal (and, yes,
it is fine to use "I"). I encourage you to take a look at the essay by Nick Cave about Mark,
even if you're not writing about it, if you need inspiration. You can find it online at this link:
http://j.mp/cave-on-mark. However, you should still write a solid, serious paper -- in other
words, use a thesis statement, make a clear and coherent argument, write understandably
and correctly, and refer to the text (use chapter and verse citations, for example, Mark 1.14,
and in your first Bible citation you should indicate which version you're using, such as NRSV
or NASB or whatever). Your paper will be graded on those criteria, in addition to the
originality, insight, and thoughtfulness you display in your writing.

Due: Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. via email.

Length: at least 1500 words (include a word count).


One additional rule: please save your paper, before emailing it, with a filename in the
following format:
[your last name] - RELS233 - Paper 1, Mark - [date of email as M-D-YYYY].doc
In other words, mine might look like this:
Rein - RELS233 - Paper 1, Mark - 2-8-2010.doc
I realize how anal-retentive this sounds, but bear with me, it helps me keep track of things.

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